Sarah Bruch’s contribution to Items’ "What is Inequality?" theme makes a strong case that scholars need to include a relational perspective in interrogating the roots of inequality. Drawing from her research on how differences in access to quality education shape socioeconomic and political inequalities, Bruch argues that attending to distributional outcomes alone is insufficient in explaining, and ultimately addressing, the ways in which social structural relationships produce inequality and how different forms of inequality reinforce each other.
Sarah K. Bruch is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Iowa. Her research focuses broadly on social stratification and public policy. In particular, she focuses on integrating theoretical insights from relational and social theorists into the empirical study of inequalities. She brings this approach to the study of social policy, education, race, politics, and citizenship. Her work has been published in leading academic journals, including the American Sociological Review, Sociology of Education, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Child Development. Her current research includes three streams. The first focuses on US social policies, examining their social and distributional impacts as well as their consequences for civic and political life. The second focuses on schools as organized sites of racialized authority relations that shape life trajectories and function as formative experiences of citizenship. The third focuses on the interplay of racial and economic inequalities, seeking to clarify how they relate to each other, how they are connected to state policy choices, and how they are produced through specific relational and policy mechanisms.